I know that a lot of people who read this blog are dreading The Holidays, or as we call them in England festivities. Some people look back at the Thanksgivings and Christmas’s before the shit hit the fan, nostalgically, remembering how wonderful they were, and thinking how they will never get them back.
Some people feel as if they were a lie, just a load of crap; some are probably feeling both! But more importantly some are actually afraid of them and the memories (triggers) that they will bring.
I think one of the things that compounds the feeling of dread is that expectations rise; we are constantly told that everyone should be happy during The Holidays. Media and adveritsing ram down our throats that everyone is happy and you should be too and if your not you’ve failed.
What a load of bollocks!! And the expectations that this type of hype puts on people can compound their grief and leave them feeling isolated and unhappy. Add to that the memories of the years before, when they remember being happy, or worse remember being lied to, or wonder if that was the case and it just makes them feel desolate.
So we come to dread them; tell ourselves the stories of how the Thanksgiving’s before were always so happy. How the Christmas Holidays were full of fun and laughter; and in our head tells us that we will never be that happy again.
Christmas was always such a happy time in our house, we had the additional celebration of it being Ethan’s birthday on Christmas Eve and it was always a double celebration.
The year that ‘The War’ broke out in our lives was the year that Ethan was going to turn eighteen – which is a big deal in England. So in my normal indomitable way I was not going to let what had happened ruin what had always been a wonderful time of year for us; and I was especially not going to let it ruin Ethan’s birthday.
So for our first Christmas after ‘The War’ I went out of my way and made new memories – we made new memories. We changed things we used to do – like going to the pub on Christmas Eve in the afternoon – and we went to the pub on Christmas day for a lunchtime drink before dinner.
We started a tradition of visiting a small quaint pub in the medieval city of Canterbury for lunch when we did our Christmas shopping – a pub that had not been tainted in any way by ‘The War’. In fact we continued that tradtion right up to the last Christmas before we left England for our adventure in France.
We started a tradition of playing Monopoly on Boxing day, we kept presents back to open after dinner, and I bought a Christmas tree to put up on the balcony of our home, to show people that we were still together and that I didn’t give a fuck what they thought! It gave the illusion that we were deliriously happy; and whilst we were in a better place (God knows it couldn’t have been any worse!) I can assure you that there was still a lot of shit to go through!
All of these things seem like really small things, but I do believe in small steps. Doing those things then enabled us to follow those traditions the year after, and the years after that, new traditions, new memories, that helped us to not look back with poignancy or anger at the one’s we used to have.
I had to stop ‘looking back’, we had to stop. I had to remind myself to stay in the here and now, not look back, but whilst it was hard doing those things enabled it to get easier every year.
I can remember the thought of every holiday, or celebration, frightening me in the first year; so I held on to a piece of advice I was given when my darling mum died: ‘Get through the first year and the others will get easier because you have done it once already.’
It was good advice and I used it when my world was blown apart by betrayal.
Oh and Ethan’s birthday? We threw him a great big party in our house, and Danny cried, because he never thought he would be there!
I will be sharing my journal entry from the first Christmas we were back together – ironically I did not write in it over Christmas but the entry is just before so look out for it.
As always I hope this helps. Stay strong, and remember – always have yourself because without yourself you have nothing.
Making This Better the book is now available including the journal entries for the first 5 years of our recovery & the whole 21 days of ‘The War’. Available internationally in paperback and ebook at Amazon and Barnes & Noble also available at Xlibris and Apple Books for iPad and Waterstones Bookstores for click & collect
I would love to hear your feedback.